Continuing our coverage of last week's MiT6 conference, I'd like to share a paper from Elisabeth Jones, a doctoral student at the University of Washington's Information School. Jones presented a paper last Saturday on Network Television Streaming Technologies and the Shifting Television Social Sphere.
Jones explores how streaming technologies change the viewing space of television. To do this, Jones presents three sites where viewing experiences are changing :
- Where and when we watch
- How and with whom we watch
- Role of collective experience and serendipity
Jones argues that most of what's written about television focuses on content and not on the actual practice of viewing. Broadcast television, Jones argues, has the potential to bring families together around TV viewing. Broadcast television can also give people a way to connect over a shared experience and get exposure to things they wouldn't otherwise encounter. Jones also points to some criticisms of television, namely Robert Putnam's assertion that individualized viewing patterns signal the death of civic engagement.
Jones uses Hulu and ABC's Full Episode Player to analyze streaming how streaming television is changing viewing patterns. In contrast to broadcast viewing, Jones argues that online television could diminish the potential for collective experience since most viewers only choose to stream content they're interested in. Further, streaming TV shows don't feature breaking news or emergency weather reports. If people had been watching streaming sitcoms in the summer of 1994, for example, no one would have known that OJ Simpson was involved in a low-speed car chase.
Of course, streaming television is in its infancy and if it could very well begin to incorporate more local information and breaking news. Still, Jones's paper gives us a lot to think about in terms of how the experience of watching television is changing as we integrate online TV into our lives.